Lifejackets are exposed to heat, sun and salt, which means they can be easily subject to damage. Look after your lifejackets by:
rinsing off salt with fresh water and checking for damage after use
storing lifejackets in a dry, well-ventilated area out of sunlight
not using your lifejackets as cushions or fenders (bumpers)
keeping lifejackets away from oil and fuel
removing new lifejackets from their plastic wrapping before storing.
Inflatable lifejackets need extra care. An inflatable lifejacket can only save your life if it's in good working order. If it's not, you or one of your passengers could drown. Check your lifejacket before each boating trip and service it regularly.
You should complete a pre-wear check of your lifejacket before each boating trip. This shouldn’t take longer than a minute or two.
Step 1: Check there are no visible signs of wear and tear.
Step 2: Check that the CO2 cylinder is not pierced and is screwed in firmly (hand tight).
Step 3: If you have an auto-inflating lifejacket, check the auto-inflation cartridge is hand tight and that it's still in date. Cartridges must be replaced by the expiry date shown.
Step 4:Finally, check the pull cord is free and ready to use. After use, remove the cartridge and rinse the lifejacket with fresh water. Dry the lifejacket and reconnect the cartridge before storing.
A regular service makes sure the bladder, inflation mechanism and CO2 cylinder are in good working order. In NSW, you must service inflatable lifejackets once a year, or in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
If you cannot remember when your lifejacket was last serviced, it's recommended that you get it serviced straight away. Keep receipts and certificates as evidence of servicing. You must also keep a record of the date your lifejacket was serviced on the inside of your lifejacket.
Find your nearest lifejacket service location and set yourself automated servicing reminders here.
Sometimes, you can self-service a lifejacket by following the manufacturer's instructions. The instructions are either supplied with a new lifejacket, printed on the lifejacket itself, or available on the manufacturer's website.
Step 1: Check for visible signs of wear and damage. Make sure all fastenings and buckles are in good working order.
Step 2: Following the manufacturer’s instructions, reveal the inflation system and oral inflation tube. Inflate the bladder using the oral inflation tube and leave overnight. If the bladder loses pressure overnight, take the lifejacket to an accredited service agent. Do not repair it yourself.
Step 3: Deflate the bladder by inverting the cap on the oral inflation tube and pressing down on the valve inside the tube. Do not insert anything into the top of the tube as it may damage the valve. Roll or press the lifejacket to deflate it fully.
Step 4: Remove and inspect the CO2 cylinder. It should not be rusted or corroded. Weigh the cylinder on scales – it should be the minimum gross weight shown on the cylinder, or within 2 grams. While the cylinder is removed, test that the pull cord and firing pin are functional. If the cylinder is rusted, corroded, has been pierced or is not the correct weight, it should be replaced. On auto-inflating lifejackets, make sure all auto components are armed (ready for use) and not expired. Refit the cylinder to the inflation system and tighten it by hand until just firm.
Step 5: Repack the lifejacket as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure the pull cord is free, accessible and unlikely to catch on anything when worn.
Step 6: Record the date when your lifejacket was serviced on the inside of your lifejacket.
If your lifejacket has been inflated When your lifejacket inflates, the CO2 cylinder is pierced and cannot be used again. Auto-inflating lifejackets may also need the auto-inflating components replaced. Try to always have spare components on your vessel. You can get CO2 cylinders and other spare parts from the manufacturer or your local retailer.
Transport for NSW offers free sessions to promote awareness of lifejacket care and servicing requirements, including step-by-step instructions on how to self-service your inflatable lifejacket as well as general safety advice and information. More information on the Lifejacket Care and Service Program can be found here.